With fuel prices at record highs and consumers becoming more aware of the need to protect the environment, energy-saving products are becoming an increasingly important part of retailers' product mixes.
In responding to this trend, retailers will find that the higher price that comes with an environmental conscience must be balanced by convenience and efficacy.
For example, while compact fluorescent light bulbs have been readily accepted by consumers despite price points significantly higher than incandescent lighting, rechargeable batteries have never been embraced despite having been on the market for years. Both save energy, but the difference, said industry observers, is that while CFLs cost more, they last much longer, requiring less replacement. The reusable batteries, on the other hand, require frequent recharging, which is inconvenient in the eyes of the consumer. Newer, high-drain batteries are catching on, but many shoppers have yet to make sense of the cost-benefit equation, retailers told SN.
“With rechargeable batteries, you actually have to do something, and that has always been one of the barriers to purchase,” said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York.
In general, the environmental movement and the accompanying trend to energy-saving products is a “tsunami,” said Don Stuart, managing director, Cannondale Associates, Wilton, Conn. “If you are not riding the wave, you are going to get crushed by it,” he said.
“Any retailer who is socially responsible and aware, needs to have offerings from light bulbs to batteries in products that recognize the need for source reduction,” he said.
With the price of oil remaining high, “everyone is feeling the pinch at the pump, so that has helped increase consciousness of the need to be environmentally savvy,” and the demand for CFLs is a result of this. There are limits, Stuart added. “These light bulbs are more convenient, while rechargeable batteries are less convenient, and as a society, we still have a throwaway mentality,” he said.
“A much broader cross-section of the public is aware of the environmental impact of using too much energy and the cost associated with it,” said Bill Bishop, president of Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill.
“You've got the good you can do by using less energy, and the benefit you can have yourself. It's a perfect storm between the two of those that will motivate the shopper,” he said.
“We are starting to see the shift away from the standard A-line bulbs to the more energy-efficient products,” said Lanny Hoffmeyer, corporate director, hardlines, photo and lobby, Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn. Initial distribution can be driven by partnerships with local energy companies. “Consumers are becoming more aware now of the ecological aspects of the lighting category,” he said.
“The longer-life bulb has definitely taken over. You even have talk in some states of it being required,” said Charles Yahn, vice president of sales, retail development, customer service and pharmacy, Associated Wholesalers Inc., Robesonia, Pa.